The mission behind any successful learning management system (LMS) deployment is to help facilitate, manage and track the growth of knowledge within an organization, and do it more efficiently and effectively. Knowledge can come in a variety of forms, but generally the most important to food service operators is the knowledge of 'what, why and how.' This type of knowledge can often be taught at a lower cost and with better results through a blended learning approach that leverages the power of e-learning, and many restaurant operators have reaped the benefits of successful deployments.
There are many LMS options available on the market, but not all are created equal in terms of their ability to serve the restaurant industry. In food service, there are specific challenges as it pertains to communicating the “what, why and how” that make us fundamentally different from other industries. First, we have a large and diverse hourly workforce that is heavily composed of attention-deficient millennials. Second, our industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates of any vertical market, currently well in excess of 120% nationwide according to TDn2K. Third, because of the time and money constraints on restaurant operators, selection of the right LMS often boils down to how well it accomplishes the goal of communicating the “what, why and how” without imposing too high of a burden on limited administrative and financial resources.
With these industry differences in mind, there are three often overlooked factors that really should be considered when selecting an LMS for your restaurants: 1) Ease of Use, 2) Non-learning Feature Creep, and 3) Restaurant-specific Features. In this first part of our three-part series, I examine Ease of Use from the perspective of the learner, the general manager, and the administrator.
This seems like a no-brainer, but you are paying hourly employees for every second they spend on the system. Because even a few extra minutes per learner can add up to thousands of dollars per year across many locations, ease of use is perhaps one of the most important factors when considering any LMS. For example, confusing navigation menus, distracting clutter and the time it takes to access information (such as the number of clicks required to get what they need) can have surprisingly dramatic effects on the learner’s experience and the overall cost of using the system.
Some LMSs require as many as seven clicks for the learner to access the content they need. That’s an incredible waste of time and money. Look for an LMS that makes it super clear to the learner what they need to do as soon as they log in. That means no more than one or two clicks required to get started with their learning.
One of the biggest value propositions of e-learning is reducing the time required to get employees to the level of competency required to do their jobs. For example, as shown in the graphic below, some restaurants have cut training time by 50% or more with their e-learning programs.
Make sure the LMS you choose does not diminish this value by encouraging employees to search around for their training, waste time playing games or hang out in social sites.
A system that reduces complexity across the board will help to ensure learners get the information they need with less effort, and thus have more time to spend engaging in the actual learning process. Restaurants benefit because they spend less time and money having new hires sitting on a tablet performing non-learning activities, and instead have new hires focus their time on getting trained.
The General Manager
Managing a restaurant is a demanding job that requires a balance of many competencies, including restaurant operations knowledge, guest hospitality, financial acumen, and human resource management. One of the most time-consuming aspects can be hiring and onboarding new employees, and then ensuring they get the training and development they need to succeed. If your LMS makes you go through a cumbersome process to assign training to employees, it will just complicate an already difficult job.
When selecting an LMS, it’s critical that it be easy for busy store managers to use. Look for features like one-click learning program assignments, automated assignments based on skill position, automated exam administration and grading, and integration with HRIS systems to automate employee additions, changes and deletions.
In addition, it should be easy for managers to see the status of training in their store at a glance. Features like an interactive dashboard and flexible reporting can make managing training through an LMS a seamless and helpful experience for managers.
LMS administrators know that despite their many advantages, working with some learning management systems can be a big pain in the you-know-what. We’ve heard countless stories about the many hoops admins have to jump through just to upload new content, even waiting for weeks at a time to complete the process. And forget about editing an exam question or moving an employee to a different location – some things are better left undone for all the gyrations you need to go through.
In today’s age of intuitive, user-friendly interfaces, there’s no reason the poor system admin – the workhorse of the training department – needs to be left behind. You don’t have to settle for cumbersome, old-school technology just because it’s the back end that no one but you will ever see. Modern LMSs should be as easy for the admin to use as they are for the learner.
Some of today’s LMSs have been designed specifically to reduce administrative burden. Conditional Learning Programs is one example of a feature that streamlines work for LMS admins. This feature lets admins customize the learning experience for different regions, franchisees, specific brands or other criteria that dictate different content for a subset of learners. For example, within a single Harassment Prevention learning program, you can automatically deliver different content to learners in different states. California requires a specific set of sexual harassment training content that other states do not require, so the learning program can be set to recognize a learner from California and deliver the right version. Here’s a video that shows how this works.
Make Adoption Easy
The bottom line is that ease-of-use should not stop at the learner’s experience. Make sure the LMS you choose is easy to use for managers and administrators as well. This will help to ensure adoption by all users and save labor dollars across the board.
Part 2 of this series will focus on Non-learning Feature Creep – an issue that can cause a lot of distraction and wasted time if you’re not careful.
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